European Union of Students: Education should be protected from austerity

The ESU has made calls for education to be protected from austerity measures. Isabella De Luca reports…

European Students' Union

European Students’ Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The European Students’ Union (ESU), an umbrella organisation representing 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries, has made calls for the protection of education from austerity measures.

ESU does not agree with the opinion of the European Commission that the current fiscal targets are the best way to support sustainable economic growth and employment opportunities.

Youth unemployment has reached over 20% across the EU, with Ireland holding one of the highest levels at over 30%.

An Eurydice report published last month confirmed that national budgets for education are not afforded protection from austerity measures, despite the ambitious targets set in the EU2020 strategy that were endorsed by the Member States.

The strategy lists five main priorities for employment, research and development, climate change and energy sustainability, education and fighting poverty and social exclusion. Based on this, the EU aims to reduce the rates of early school leaving to below ten per cent, and to ensure forty per cent of people aged 30 to 34 years have completed third level education before the year 2020.

However, in many cases, countries obliged to enforce strict austerity policy and criteria set by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have targeted education and training in their budget cuts.

Overall, a vast majority of EU countries spends less than two per cent of gross domestic product on higher education, and some significantly less. Severe linear budget cuts can therefore have very serious consequences for the working environment of higher education institutions and on students.

Chairperson of the ESU, Karina Ufert said; ‟We are concerned that the EU will be set astray from its policy for inclusive growth if too much emphasis will be placed on implementing flat budget cuts. The EU had already recognised how important education is to support a long-term economic growth. A strong and inclusive education system is the foundation of prosperity, to sustain innovative measures and a sturdy base for knowledge capacity,”

“An inclusive growth has to protect those sectors of society that are able to bring the society forward. Therefore, investments in education and training should be excluded from those deficit targets. Education is a human right and that should be our demand to the EU and especially the Eurogroup in this European Year of Citizens,” continued Ufert.

A 2% reduction in funding for third level was made in Ireland last year, as well as a €25m cut from institution budgets.

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